By The Buzz Contributor Ilian Angelov
Since the arrival of Roman Abramovich at Chelsea, they have become one of the best teams in the country and on the continent. In the same stretch the Blues from London became a pulverizer for managers. Since buying Chelsea in 2004, Abramovich changed 14 managers. Some brought silverware, some fulfilled his dream about European glory but still got sacked. Mourinho had two stays filled with silverware, winning 8 trophies in 5 seasons, but still got sacked twice by the Russian billionaire.
In mid March 2012, Roberto Di Matteo was appointed interim manager, following Andre Villas-Boas’ sacking. By the end of the season the Italian fulfilled Abramovich’s dream of winning the Champions League. He also won the FA cup few weeks later. These honors won Di Matteo a two-year full time contract. Nevertheless he was sacked few months later after a poor streak of performances. Fast forward to July 2019. After spending only 1 season with Chelsea, winning the Europa League and finishing 3rd in the league, Maurizio Sarri left the Blues to return to his home country and take charge of Juventus. Chelsea was once again looking for a manager to take them through difficult times. Eden Hazard just left for Real Madrid, and the team faced a FIFA ban of two transfer windows (Summer 2019 and winter 2020) without signing new players.
Club legend Frank Lampard got offered the chance to take his beloved club through these difficult times. He was eager to give youth and academy graduates more first-team game time, and they didn’t disappoint him. The likes of Tammy Abraham, Reece James, Mason Mount, Fikayo Tomori, and Callum Hudson-Odoi took their chances and became regular starters. The young guns impressed Europe, they were playing fast flowing football, scored a lot of goals, and were one of the most entertaining sides to watch. They reached Round of 16 in the Champions league where they had the impossible task to face the future champions Bayern Munich. They played in the FA cup final which they lost to Arsenal, and finished 4th in the Premier League, securing them a spot in the next season of the Champions league.
A great debut season in the top flight for Super Frank. But what does Roman Abramovich thinks about the lack of silverware? In the summer of 2020, Chelsea went on a spending spree around 250m € improving the squad in every aspect of the game. Edouard Mendy came from Stade Rennais for around 24m to challenge dodgy Keppa for the number 1 spot. Leicester’s left-back Ben Chilwell arrived for 50m, Hakim Ziyech also came from Ajax for 40m came to straighten the right wing, and Timo Werner was brought under Liverpool’s nose for 53m to improve the attack. One of the best center backs in the last 10 years Tiago Silva came from PSG as a free agent to bring the so needed experience into this young Chelsea team. The jewel in the summer was bringing Kai Havertz from Bayer Leverkusen who is considered one of the brightest young playmakers in the world. He became Chelsea’s most expensive signing with a fee around 80m €.
Considering these transfers, Chelsea were supposed to be genuine title contenders. On paper they have one of the best teams in the league. Although all these star signings were prerequisite for disruption in the squad, because the youngsters impressed so much last season, and now they will probably be left outside of the squad. Luckily this never happened, but it was because of the wrong reasons. It’s just some of the star players can’t convince that they deserve their high price and starting place. Ever since the beginning of the season Werner and Havertz showed just a glimpse of what’s expected of them.
Timo Werner is used mostly at the flank, where he can’t really show the football he used to play for RB Leipzing in the last couple of seasons. Havertz looks like he still can’t settle, most of the time he looks slow and out of position. So recently a thought has crept into my mind: were all summer signings wanted by Lampard or some of them were bought just because they could be? We’ve seen this in the past, Abramovich making expensive signings just because he can, and just because of the glamour of buying expensive players. Most of the times these actions were followed by relationship breakdown between the owner and the manager.
With the failure to bring stability to this Chelsea team alternating great displays, with being outplayed by most top 10 teams, people have started to wonder if Lampard’s time in charge is numbered. Because many before him were sacked with much better stats in charge of the Blues. Maybe his days are really numbered and Abramovich is already looking for his successor. Or maybe the Russian will give Lampard extra time because of his status as one of Chelsea’s greatest legends. Or maybe the eccentric owner found out that in order to build a great football club the manager needs few seasons so he can implement his ideas to everyone (not very likely having in mind his past attitude towards the managers).
I personally am a fan of Lampard as a manager and hope he gets more time in charge. And hope in couple of years we can see the Lampard – Gerrard duel taken to the managers seats at the Chelsea – Liverpool games. Maybe Lampard will be the first of many legends as players becoming managers at their respective clubs and becoming a legend as managers too.